Isao Suzuki is the grand master of jazz in Japan. He is a bassist, multi instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer, and bandleader. He was born on January 3, 1933 in Tokyo.
When he was a college student back in December 1953 he went to see Louis Armstrong All Stars in Tokyo. Milt Hinton, the best player ever, 43 at the time, was playing. Luckily Isao could see him playing from the front seat, and he was totally taken aback by Milt’s bass. When Milt said, “I pick and you clap,” and played solo bass very casually for 15 minutes, Isao was so moved by the sound that he couldn’t stop crying. Milt smiled at Isao when he noticed that Isao was so moved and crying. Isao was so fascinated by his performance, so three days later, Isao asked his mother to buy him a double bass.
Some time after Isao got the bass, a bandleader of a strip joint asked him if he wanted to play for them. The question, or his answer rather, would become the first step onto a professional path. At that time, live performing was very common and good strip theater had jazz players. Isao couldn’t do anything at the beginning, but he was able to read music scores and play in about six months. Among the customers frequenting the strip joint was guitarist Tony Tekiseira, a G.I. working with the military band. One day Tony invited Isao to the U.S. military base in Tokyo. He liked the way Isao played, and Isao joined his band. Isao spent three or four years there and gained confidence, because he played with real American jazzman.
In 1960, Isao joined a very popular band named George Kwaguchi and Big Four and sometimes it became George Kwaguchi and Big Four plus one, when Sadao Watanabe joined in. Isao was having lots of jam session at that time. Once Tony Scott, the clarinet player, listened to his performance and Tony wanted to play with him. Tony lived in 1960 to 1965, and joined hands with Isao throughout 1962 with the legendary Tony Scott quartet. After Tony left the band, Hidehiko Matsumoto joined and it became Hidehiko Matsumoto Quartet. This is where Isao met Paul Chambers. In 1964, lots of great musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers came to Japan for “the first world jazz festival.” Hidehiko Matsumoto Quartet was the only Japanese band to join the festival, then Isao met Paul and they spent lots of time together.